Countries renowned for their wine can often boast more than one successful growing region.
Australia is no exception. As in other parts of this vast land, visitors to Victoria, are spoilt
for choice when it comes to vineyard tastings as HELEN PERRY discovered…yet again!
Friends tend to scarper when I mention Melbourne. They just know I am going to spend the next hour or so waxing lyrical about this beautiful city, the shops, the markets, the arts
scene, restaurants, wildlife, and, of course, its wineries.
And why not? Melbourne is blessed with many attractions including much lauded grape-growing regions but when it comes to the dilemma
of which wine tour to choose, I never have a problem. There is just one company for me – Wine Tours Victoria.
This boutique company run by wine connoisseur, Trevor Armstrong is the only Melbourne company which takes tours to four major wine regions. – Mornington Peninsula,, the Yarra
Valley, Macedon Ranges and the Geelong region, namely the Bellarine Peninsula. I have now toured all four with Victoria Wine Tours, this latest visit encompassing the Bellarine
Once again I was delighted to have John Hudson as our driver – a personable, wine savvy and genial host. And, as I’m sure readers will appreciate, it was ever so easy to sit
back in a luxury Mercedes eight seater, and be driven from location to location with no worries about drinking and driving.
As usual our tour included a morning tea break in a scenic location, this time at pretty Eastern Park in Geelong.
Then it was on to our first stop, Jack Rabbit Vineyard where we gave top marks for the diverse range of cool climate wines which embraced everything from whites such as pinot
grigio, riesling, sauvignon blanc and chardonnay through to reds, namely merlot, pinot noir and shiraz.
In fact, it was difficult not to give every winery top marks, well, at least for the wines I bought home and I did manage to squeeze five bottles, from across the board, into my suitcase!
Top marks also for the sweeping views from the Jack Rabbit property.
While this was not our lunch stop, the winery boasted a lovely restaurant with floor to ceiling windows which fairly drank in the outlook across Port Phillip Bay – stunning.
Surprisingly, I left this lovely estate with a 2015 Riesling.
Now, for someone who is very much in the red wine camp, I’m still marvelling at how much the vibrant citrusy notes impacted on me. It will be interesting to see if I still feel the same when I open it, perhaps towards the end of next summer.
Conscious of how much we could carry, I determined to buy just one bottle of wine from each of the four estates we visited, however, when it came to Oakdene, at the end of our
tour, I couldn’t resist just one extra!
Moving on from Jack Rabbit to Scotchmans Hill, we found the cellar door inside a charming bungalow. Once again our tasting host was (as expected) extremely knowledgeable.
He guided our tasting experience according to individual preferences and I was more than happy to pop a bottle of the winery’s Norfolk Vineyard Bellarine Peninsula 2010 Pinot Noir into my bag as we left – yes, I did pay for it!
After a little tiki tour down to Portarlington on the water, we made our way to Terindah Estate, its Indonesian name meaning ‘most beautiful’ and it was just that. Like Jack Rabbit (just down the road)), this vineyard enjoyed jaw-dropping views all the way to Melbourne city.
This was also our lunch stop and Terindah Estate’s celebrated restaurant, The Shed, didn’t
disappoint. Seated at our table, pristine with white tablecloth sparkling wine glasses and fronted by the view, I sensed we were in for a treat. Indeed, our three-course
lunch, was difficult to fault, hearty, flavoursome and much too decadent for the middle of the day. However, ahead of lunch was a tasting – of course! Here, I encountered, for the first time, Zinfandel and to be truthful I had never heard of it but, wow, what a wine.
Bolder than I expected and with peppery notes that appealed, I really liked this wine even though one brief tasting, after so many, made it difficult to truly judge. I am now trying not to wish away cellaring time as I wait a year or two before trying the Terindah Estate 2014 Zinfandel I brought home. It could be just the ticket with a juicy steak.
While reluctant to leave this stunning location we had one more stop to make – Oakdene – and this was to prove fascinating. I just loved the quirky nature of the cellar door where the A-frame timber house, with multicoloured windows, looked as if it had been blown over on its side – very clever indeed.
Inside, the rustic-themed tasting room made good use of reclaimed and recycled timber while the eclectic array of artworks and collectibles (inside and out) said a lot about the
personality of owner Elizabeth Hooley who I understand designed the topsyturvy house.
I was disappointed I had no time to interview this woman whose talents include design and grape growing and whose wines feature the names of family members – children and grandchildren included.
Although there was much to distract us from the business at hand, we came to taste wine and we did. However, by this time I was not so sure my tastebuds – or my constitution – could take too much more despite the temptation of so many fine vintages.
Because, I could not decide between the Oakdene 2015 William Shiraz and the 2015 Bernard’s Cabernet, I bought both – I loved that most wines were named after family members! William and Bernard now await the day I can actually see what they’re made of (a few years down the track) and that day will, I’m sure, be worth the wait.
With the afternoon drawing to a close, it was time to return to Melbourne.
Yet, again, I was regretful that such a short Oz visit meant rushing through our ‘to do’ list. I swear the day is coming when we stay in or near Melbourne for longer than three or four days and can take time to explore its wine regions further.
However, I was so appreciative of the leisurely pace we enjoyed with Wine Tours Victoria – the chance to be ferried here and there meant no worries about imbibing beyond the
limit…if just a little bit!